Nick Hexum had an inkling that his band 311 would be successful at the group's very first show in its native Nebraska.
"We were opening for Fugazi, for a crowd that was jsut ready to mosh and all we had to do was rip into our first song and the place went crazy," Hexum, 45, recalls by phone from his current home in California. "Most people don't have a debut gig like that. It was such a great launch."
311 has, of course, stayed airborne for the subsequent 27 years, releasing 13 studio albums and, since 2011, operating its own 311 Records label. This year marks a particularly noteworthy anniversary for Hexum and company -- the 20th for "311," an album that went triple-platinum, and launched the hits "Down" and "All Mixed Up." But Hexum is quick to note that was no overnight success.
"I think there was a lot of momentum that came just form relentless touring," he says. "We just put all our possessions in storage and just lived on the road -- tour, tour, tour, tour. And we could see how much bigger the shows were getting each time through, how many more people knew our songs every time. We could feel there was a great momentum coming. There was just a confidence on that album you can really hear.
"It was definitely a fun time."
Hexum says there's plenty of material around for a new 311 album; "I personally have about 20 demos that would work, and everybody else has songs," he notes. But this year's 311 release dips back into the past; "311 Archive" is a four-CD set featuring unreleased alternate versions, demos and live tracks, as well as some songs that appeared on soundtracks and compilations. Hexum credits drummer Chad Sexton for hoarding the tapes over the years -- even saving them first when a wildfire once threatened his home -- and the frontman says it was enjoyable to have 311's life flash before his ears.
"It was a big trip to hear the songs as babies," he says, "to hear songs like 'Strong All Along,' which was originally called 'Pass The Grass' and had totaly different lyrics and was way goofier. People have lived with that song for, like 16 years, since (the album) 'Soundsystem,' and to hear a different version with this random creativity is really a trip, I think -- for us and for other people. And there's a lot more of those, too."
H.O.R.D.E. Festival 2015 with 311, Blues Traveler, Big Head Todd & the Monsters and the Verve Pipe
5 p.m. Thursday, July 9.
DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township.
Tickets are $25-$69.50, $20 lawn with a $60 lawn four-pack.
Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
Send your thoughts and comments to